The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade has been running for 88 years now and is the official kick off to the holiday season. It’s an annual tradition at our house: Every Thanksgiving, the family gathers in the living room with hot chocolate, coffee and assorted breakfast foods to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. As the parade goes on, we tend to end up in the kitchen as we get our turkey in the oven and our side dishes started. We are cozy and warm (sometimes with the air conditioning running, as we do live in Florida!) and 1,500 miles away from the action in New York City, but if you live in New York or plan on traveling there this Thanksgiving, you might join the other 3.5 million annual spectators at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Otherwise you can watch the parade live from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
Performers this year include Nick Jonas, Hilary Duff, KISS, Cirque du Soleil, William Blake and the Big Apple Circus. The Muppets from Sesame Street will also be making a special appearance. Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and Al Roker will be anchoring the parade.
Balloons include Hello Kitty, Spider Man, Snoopy, the Pillsbury Doughboy and more. The tallest balloon is Chippey (aka Elf on a Shelf,) which is as tall as a 5 story buildling, as long as 8 bicycles as wide as 6 taxi cabs and requires 90 handlers. Toothless from the movie How to Train Your Dragon, is only as high as a 4 story building, but longer than Chippy at (12 long as 12 bicycles,) as wide as 7 taxi cabs and also requires 90 handlers. There will also be some new additions to the parade this year including Thomas the Tank Engine, Pikachu and the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.
If you choose to go, here are some tips for getting the most out of the experience:
Dress for success. In this case, you’ll measure success by how warm and comfortable you are! Late November is usually quite cold in New York, and there is often a gusty, biting wind. Dress in layers from head to toe. If it warms up later in the morning, you can take some of your layers off. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, too, because chances are that you will be doing a lot of walking.
Get there super early. The parade starts at 9:00 am, but it’s best to grab your spot between 6:00 and 7:00 am. Yes, it will still be dark, but the streetlights will keep everything well-lit. Plan on not moving from your spot, because if you do, it will be taken. Bring breakfast and a hot drink with you.
Choose your spot with practicality in mind. You will want to be near a restaurant that is open that day, because if you’re showing up at 6:00 and drinking coffee or hot chocolate, you will need to use the restroom facilities. (Bathrooms are for customers only, so plan on picking up another drink or a snack at your chosen restaurant.)
Decide where on the route you want to be. Many veteran parade-goers recommend staking out a spot on the Upper West Side. This allows you to be at the start of the parade, which also means that you’ll see the end of the parade over an hour before fellow spectators who are located at the end of the route. You could be among the first people heading out of the city. Another coveted spot is at Columbus Circle. You probably won’t be able to get a spot near Macy’s, because a lot of that area is roped off for telecasting and those with special tickets.
If you’re able and willing to splurge, enjoy the parade from your hotel room. You will pay a pretty penny (think upper three and lower four digits), but you can be warm, cozy and have a birds-eye view. Some of the hotels with perfect locations include Mandarin Oriental, New York; New York Hilton Midtown; Warwick New York Hotel; and Residence Inn New York Manhattan/Times Square. At some of these hotels, you can pay less for a room without a view of the parade but watch it with other patrons from the lobby or other common areas.
Plan to hang around. If you don’t have any hopes of getting out of Manhattan before the parade is over, then plan to stick around for a while afterward to let the bulk of the crowd dissipate. Make lunch reservations at one of the restaurants that are open and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner right in the heart of New York, then head out after everyone else has.
Hotels that offer rooms with a view or the parade or a restaurant in which you can enjoy breakfast while watching include Trump Towers, Mandarin Oriental, JR Marriott Essex House, Quin Hotel and New York Hilton Midtown.
If you are in New York for Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the floats, bands and musical numbers up close. It will be a memory that you’ll re-live each year as you gather in your living room to watch the parade on television during subsequent years.
If you’ve gone to the Macy’s parade in the past, do you have any tips to share with our readers?